Kettleball, which is also known as kettlebell, is a round weight with a handle that is used for exercise and weight training. The kettleball has a flat bottom and is usually made of cast iron, but some companies make them out of iron, steel, or rubber.


Kettlebells vary in weight from 2.2 lb. (1 kg) to 75 lb. (34.01 kg) or heavier. Some smaller, vinyl balls filled with sand are used to tone muscles, for upper bodywork, and to firm up areas such as the buttocks and thighs.

Kettleball lifting has been described as a “total body workout.” The activity combines strength and cardiovascular exercises, and lifting that benefits arm muscles. Exercises can also target muscles in the shoulders, abdomen, back, and legs. Because of the flat surface, the kettleball will not roll away when placed on the floor. This allows for routines such as the squat, an exercise where the person squats and picks the kettleball up from the floor. This action uses the gluteus maximus (known as glutes, or buttocks), hamstrings, and abdominal muscles.

A person may use one or two kettlebells to develop strength, tone and firm up the body, or lose weight. In a 2010 study by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), participants burned an average of 272 calories during a 20-minute workout.

The kettlebell originated in Russia, where it is known as girya. The Russian word for a kettlebell lifting competition is girevoy, and the competitions in the United States and other countries are sometimes called Girevoy Sport (GS). The goal of GS training is overall body conditioning, according to the American Kettlebell Club (AKC), a subsidiary of the World Kettlebell Club.


Kettlebell lifting is both a competitive sport and an activity that men, women, and youths of both genders participate in to reach personal fitness goals. One measure of the exercise demographic is the range of well-known people who use kettleballs.

Actor Gerard Butler exercised with a 36-lb. (16.33-kg) kettlebell as part of a workout to build muscles for his role as King Leonidas in the 2007 movie 300. The workout of 300 repetitions included 50 repetitions of the single-arm clean-and-press with the kettlebell, according to Men's Health magazine. Other celebrities who use kettlebells noncompetitively include Jennifer Lopez, Kim Cattrall, Matthew McConaughey, Penelope Cruz, and Ed O'Neil.

Kettleball instruction in the United States for adults includes classes for women who want to lose weight. Some classes are designed for older adults, and students include men in their 70s. Opinion varies about when it is safe for youths to work out with kettlebells. Some fitness experts say training should not start until a person is 12 years old; others say that the starting age should be 16. The AKC youth competition is open to athletes between the ages of 14 and 18.

The first national kettlebell competition was held in Russia in 1985. By August 2011, national teams and clubs affiliated with the World Kettlebell Club included groups in countries including Russia, the United States, Australia, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and Brazil.


Kettleball lifting combines strength training with cardiovascular exercise for a well-rounded workout.

Kettleball lifting combines strength training with cardiovascular exercise for a well-rounded workout.

After World War II, people in Russia, which was then part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was among the countries that were interested in weightlifting. For many nations, the focus was on Olympic weightlifting standards. By the 1960s, kettlebell competitions in the USSR were held at universities and schools. Contest rules could vary by location.

The popularity of the kettlebell continued to spread, and the Committee of Kettlebell Sport was created in 1985. The committee established rules, regulations, and weight categories; it also staged the first national championship in Lipetsk, Russia in 1985. Lipetsk was also the site of the first World Championship in 1993. Among the first 1993 champions was Valery Fedorenko, who was born in 1973 in Kryzgstan.

Fedorenko emigrated to the United States in 1999, with the goal of introducing kettlebell lifting to the nation. He and Russian kettlebell champion Pavel Tsatsouline are credited with popularizing kettlebell training in the United States. Their efforts worked. Rolling Stone magazine rated the kettleball as the “Hot Weight of the Year in 2002.” Seven years later, the ACE ranked kettlebell among the top fitness trends.


Kettlebell lifting is a competitive sport, and people also use kettleballs to reach goals such as developing muscles and losing weight. People may work out in gyms, community centers, and their homes.

Kettleball moves include the:


Valery Alekseevich Fedorenko, 1993 winner of the World Kettlebell Championship, was born March 22, 1973 in Kara-Balta, in the Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Life was hard, and sports provided an opportunity for a better life. He began kettlebell lifting at age 12 and moved to Kazakhstan at 17 to train full time. He went on to claim many firsts including Youngest Honoured Master of Sport and world champion in his weight class.

In 1999, he emigrated to the United States, planning to introduce kettlebell to the nation. He staged his first exhibition at New York's Brighton Beach in 2000, established the American Kettlebell Club in 2006, and currently serves as Team America's head coach and chief advisor for the World Kettlebell Club, an organization he founded.

Competitive kettlebell

During a competition, athletes attempt to achieve the highest score for doing moves involving one or two kettlebells.

The AKC focuses on GS training, where the goal is to do the maximum number of repetitions during a designated time. The minimum amount of time for a competitive event is 10 minutes. While there are designated routines, contest organizers may create competitions such as a combination event that measures the number of jerks and snatches completed in 20 minutes.

The International Girevoy Sport Committee rules place competitors in categories that include: youths, ages 14 to 18; open, people age 18 to 39; and masters, people age of 40 and older. Women and men compete in separate events.

Athletes may compete as individuals, teams, and in contests that combine solo and team lifting. Scoring for individual events is based on each person's results. For team and combined individual/team results, individual results and those of the team are factored in for individual and team rankings.

Competitors wear shorts, a t-shirt or lifter's singlet, and athletic shoes. This attire is suitable for people involved in noncompetitive kettleball workouts.

Kettleball workouts

Kettleball workouts can provide a full-body workout or focus on specific areas. Some programs are offered in a gym or class setting; others may be done at home.

AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EXERCISE COMANA SIXWEEK TRAINING PLAN. The ACE asked resident exercise physiologist Fabio Comana to create a total-body workout and six-week training plan. A summary of that plan is found in the 2010 ACE article, “Kettlebells: Twice the Results in Half the Time?” Comana recommended that women start out with a kettleball weighing 8–15 lb. (3.6–6.8 kg), and men start with one weighing 15–25 lb. (6.8–11.3 kg). Emphasis is on developing correct technique. The person adds more repetitions after becoming stronger and more skilled.

The program starts with a warm up and ends with a cool down and stretches. The person does seven exercises and uses one or two kettlebells. During the first week, the person does a circuit of eight repetitions per exercise. The goal is to work out at least two days. By the sixth week, the person does three circuits of 15 repetitions per exercise. The goal is to workout at least three days.

IN-HOME KETTLEBELL PROGRAMS. People can train at home using books such as Kettlebell Conditioning by Paul Collins or kits with DVDs like Kathy Smith's Kettlebell Solution. Collins' book focuses on training and recommends initially working with a trainer; Smith's DVD targets people trying to burn fat and lose weight.

Collins, an Australian coach and personal trainer, wrote about his Four-Stage Body Bell System. Stage 1 focuses on general strength, and stage 2 concentrates on swing patterns. The person does more complex exercises in stage 3. Stage 4, Power Development, involves exercises that linked one or more foundation exercises. A clear, open space is required for the workout. Collins recommends an area measuring at least 9.8 ft. by 9.8 ft. (3 m by 3 m).

Kathy Smith's Kettlebell Solution consists of a DVD and two sand-filled kettlebells: one weighing 3 lb. (1.36 kg), the other weighing 5 lb. (2.26 kg). The DVD contains four 15-minute workouts that concentrate on upper body, buns and thighs, and core and fat burning.


Preparation starts with the individual deciding upon goals. The next step is consulting with a physician to determine that no health issues would prevent this type of exercise. Whether the person wants to train to compete or to lose weight, it could be helpful to work first with a coach or trainer. The fitness expert will recommend what size kettleball to use, demonstrate techniques, and determine that a person does the moves correctly.

Kettlebells range in size from light sand-filled weights to heavier iron weights. For those who want to buy a kettleball, selections range from those marketed by Fedorenko and Tsatsouline to sets of weights like the Marcy Kettlebell Weight Kit. Offerings and costs in September 2011 included the:

Racks may be purchased to store kettleballs.


Kettleball training could cause strain or injury to the back, but preventative measures should reduce this risk. It is important to select a suitable weight for equipment and maintain a proper form. This form includes posture with a straight back and feet parallel to shoulders. Tightening abdominal muscles at certain points should help with back posture. A trainer can guide the lifter in proper form and give advice about the correct weight for the kettleball. A person could also monitor form by looking in the mirror while exercising.

Kettleball lifting requires coordination, and care should be taken to avoid hitting oneself or another with the weight.



According to research by the ACE, working with kettlebells boosts strength and cardiovascular fitness, and is likely to increase balance and flexibility. The ACE research described in a 2010 article involved a study of ten women and men between the ages of 29 and 46. All were experienced in kettlebell training. Test subjects used 26.4 lb. (12 kg), 35.2 lb. (16 kg), or 44 lb. (20 kg) kettlebells. Equipment weight was based on factors such as gender, weight, and fitness level. Participants first did a five-minute test to establish a baseline. This involved swinging the kettlebell between the legs and over the head with a snatch motion. Lifters continued to do snatches, switching hands after one minute.

Each participant then performed a 20-minute workout that started with the one-hand snatch. Participants burned an average of 272 calories during the workout. The dramatic calorie burn was attributed to the fact that the workout was a total body movement that was performed rapidly.

Other benefits

Kettlebell exercises build strength, endurdance, tone muscles, and strengthen joints, according to the AKC. Workouts also lead to fat loss and help with performance in other sports.



Collins, Paul. Kettlebell Conditioning. Oxford: Meyer & Meyer, 2011.

Tsatsouline, Pavel. Enter the Kettlebell: Strength Secret of the Soviet Supermen. St. Paul: Dragon Door Publications, 2006.


Schnettler, Chad, et al. “Kettlebells: Twice the Results in Half the Time?” ACE FitnessMatters 16, no. 1 (January/February 2010): 6-11. (accessed January 20, 2017).

Wagner, James. “Health and Wellness—What's Your Workout? A Chef Keeps Fit by Swinging Iron.” Wall Street Journal (November 10, 2009): D2


American Council on Exercise, 4851 Paramount Dr., San Diego, CA, 92123, (858) 576-6500, (888) 825-3636, Fax: (858) 576-6564,, .

World Kettlebell Club, 7 S Kline, Ste. 832, Amelia, OH, 45102, (937) 619-9348, service@WorldKettlebellClub. com, .

World Kettlebell Club, PO Box 189, Franklin, OH, 45005-0189,, .

Liz Swain

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.